Recognition and Enforceability of Foreign Court Decisions in Switzerland
Updated: Aug 17
Under Swiss law the conditions of recognition of foreign court decisions depend on the country of origin and on the subject matter of such decision. All decisions in civil and commercial matters rendered by courts of EU member states as well as of Norway, Iceland and Denmark are enforceable under the rules of the multilateral Lugano Convention (entered into force on 1 January 2011 and replacing the previous Lugano Convention, which was into force from 1992 until 2010). Under this convention, decisions that are enforceable in their country of origin are – as a rule – recognized and enforceable in Switzerland (and vice-versa). A Swiss court will recognize such decision without review of the competence of the deciding court or the merits of the foreign decision. It may refuse or revoke the enforceability declaration only for one of the reasons listed in art. 34 and 35 of the Lugano Convention. Enforcement should therefore be refused, among other things, if it would clearly contradict the public order of of Switzerland.
Foreign court decisions ordering a debtor to pay high default interest rates are an example where the Swiss ordre public exception regularly comes into play: Whilst default interests as high as 100% p.a. seem to be legal in various foreign countries, Swiss courts found that such decisions are only enforceable to a limited extent, i.e. with regard to such part of the default interest that does not exceed a maximum rare of 18 to 20 %.
In absence of bilateral or multilateral agreement on recognition and enforcement of court decisions between Switzerland and a given foreign country, the foreign country’s court decisions can be recognized and enforced subject to the Swiss Private International Law Act (PILA). According to the PILA, a foreign court decision is recognized if it has been rendered by a competent foreign authority, if it is final, and if it complies with fundamental material and procedural legal standards, as defined by the PILA. If these conditions are met, a Swiss court will recognize the decision with no further review of the merits of the decision.
At swisslitigator.ch we advise and represent clients on all matters related to the recognition and enforcement of foreign decisions in Switzerland.
This blog post was first published in March 2017 by Inesa Chmurec and Andri Ganzoni and revised and updated in December 2019.